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How this Greek Family brought authentic Greek food to California and developed a unique business

Yianni Kosmides When Dimitri Kosmides first retired from life in the restaurant business, he believed he might finally get to relax. His two sons had other ideas. Kosmides had raised the boys, Yianni and Stefano, in the business, lovingly putting them to work in the kitchen or at a cash register while they visited him […]

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Yianni Kosmides

When Dimitri Kosmides first retired from life in the restaurant business, he believed he might finally get to relax. His two sons had other ideas.

Kosmides had raised the boys, Yianni and Stefano, in the business, lovingly putting them to work in the kitchen or at a cash register while they visited him in California during their summers off from school in Greece. Kosmides himself had grown up in his parents’ restaurant, which they’d nestled into a Greek farming village. When he moved to the States, he opened his own restaurant, in 1977, then spun off two dozen more. All the while, he traveled back and forth between the two countries to be there for his kids. So by the time Yianni and Stefano got to college, Kosmides sold his last restaurant and declared himself done.

But with two generations of restaurants in their blood, Yianni and Stefano wanted their turn. Not long after Kosmides “retired,” his boys pulled him back into the business to own and operate a high-volume fast food drive-thru. Today, that one restaurant has multiplied into nine.

Yianni Kosmides says proudly, “The locations generate revenues significantly above industry averages. Most have been featured in local media and food critic shows for their outstanding performance and presence in their local community.”

One fast-casual concept in Southern California, called “Apóla Greek Grill,” draws directly from the Kosmides’ native land, sizzling up gyros exactly how Greek families eat them at home: tightly packed grilled meat or veggies; fresh roma tomatoes; red onions; and lemony, garlicky tzatziki yogurt, all wrapped into a warm pita stuffed with French fries. Yes, French fries.

Regulars know to order this version by asking for “The Works” or by simply calling out, “Apóla!” which means “with everything” and is the first word to come out of a Greek cashier’s mouth when someone orders a gyro. Of course, diners can customize their gyro with a variety of proteins, sauces, toppings and non-bread bases, or they can opt for an altogether different meal like a skewer, souvlaki or even breakfast (in the morning). 

Whatever the time of day, patrons are treated to house-made sauces, imported specialty ingredients, and high-quality, gluten-free meats that contain no MSG, no additives and no binders. In fact, 70% of the menu items are gluten-free, with a lot of Halal, vegan, and vegetarian options. Yiayia’s (Grandma’s) recipes even show up, too! 

The family likes to say it’s the most authentic Greek gyro you can get without buying a plane ticket. In fact, the plan for Apóla hatched because the brothers couldn’t find a single traditional-style gyro to eat in the States. They worked for five years to build the brand on paper — flying in Greek butchers and meat carvers to train their counterparts here and teaching customer service representatives the right way to cut and wrap the gyros — and opened the doors to their original location, in Irvine, in 2017. 

They committed themselves so passionately to the vision of authentic Greek food they didn’t even care if they profited financially. With a second site, this one in Yorba Linda, and high accolades on review sites, it’s clear their dedication and precision have paid off.

“Greeks would come to us in tears that they have finally found something that is just like home,” says Yianni Kosmides, who serves as CEO.

With their model firmly in place, the Kosmides wish to share their success by franchising Apóla all over the globe.

“We firmly believe that our concept will be popular and successful anywhere in the world. It is not only what the consumer is looking for, it’s what they are craving!says Yianni Kosmides.

Greek food finds itself severely underrepresented in America, and the fast-casual category is booming. Fast-casual is defined as “establishments which can provide varied breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with a wide selection of food and beverages in a counter-type service environment.”

Because the Kosmides aim to ensure long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with franchisees (just like family … without the drama!), they carefully match with potential partners through a seven-step process. They set a goal to provide their support and services with the highest level of honesty, integrity, and professionalism. As such, they offer comprehensive training and ongoing communication to keep franchisees and their staff informed and competitive at start-up and beyond.

Potential partners don’t have to look too far to see the Kosmides family stays true to their word. The Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce named their business Chamber Member of the Month, thanks to their significant role in the community, and nominated them for 2020 Chamber Member of the Year. Always willing to sponsor local teams, host fundraisers, and give to local charities, the Kosmides even donate a good portion of sales from the first week of operation of any new location to shelters, philanthropic organizations and families in need.

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